Robin Yassin-Kassab


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Liberated Kafranbel, abandoned to Assad's bombs, pays tribute to James Foley

Liberated Kafranbel, abandoned to Assad’s bombs, pays tribute to James Foley

Everything’s burning from Libya to Iran. I’m working on fiction, so not responding except in Facebook bursts. Here are a few status updates, starting with today’s:

A year ago Assad’s fascist regime sprayed sarin gas over the Damascus suburbs, killing over 1400 men, women and children in five hours. Hundreds more died from the effects in the following weeks. Obama had given Assad effective permission to use tanks, artillery, missiles and war planes against the Syrian people (and had ensured that the people remained effectively unarmed), but made large-scale chemical attacks a ‘red line’. We soon saw that the red line meant nothing. An alliance of the British Labour Party, Tory back benchers, UKIP, the BNP, the US Congress and the Tea Party helped Obama step away, and to hand the Syria file to Putin’s Russia – the same power arming the criminal. So the genocide continued, and continues, to the mood-music accompaniment (in the liberal-left press) of absurd conspiracy theories, racist slanders, and willed deafness to the voices of those suffering.

(On absurd conspiracy theories, read this. And here is one of the best accounts of the Syrian revolution and counter-revolutions I’ve read.) It would be great if the US were really ‘withdrawing’ from the region, as some claim Obama is doing, leaving the people there to solve their problems independently. But Washington is not withdrawing – it continues to back the murderous coup junta in Egypt, and the Israelis as they pummel the refugees in the Gaza ghetto yet again for no more than psycho-symbolic reasons. Washington actively prevented states which wanted to aid the Syrian resistance from providing serious weapons. The result is the Islamic State (or ISIS) phenomenon – also provoked by Malki’s Iran-backed sectarianism in Iraq, and the US occupation and sanctions beforehand, and Saddam Hussain before that – and now American bombing runs in northern Iraq. Obama’s ‘withdrawal’ is as illusory as the Stop the War Coalition’s Putinesque ‘pacifism’.

This was from yesterday:

a normal morning in Aleppo – six barrel bombs dropped so far by the genocidal regime, plenty of sniper fire, and international jihad-barbarians massing in the northern countryside. But most people in Aleppo (and in the camps north of Aleppo, and those living in the streets in Turkey) are not of a ‘minority’ which can be sponsored by kindly imperialists, so their genocide is ignored, and they must remain unarmed…

A few days ago, after an intensive regime bombing run against the Islamic State, I wrote:

the marriage of the Assad regime and ISIS is finally over. May they slaughter each other…

The moment after writing it, I read of an Assadist air strike on Marea in northern Aleppo province, where the Free Army is gathering to push back ISIS. So the marriage, it seems, is only over in those areas where the Free Army is defeated. Meanwhile, fools with London accents are turning up on ISIS propaganda films to hack off people’s heads. My angry reactions:

as for the stupid little British Muslim boys and girls skipping off to join the psychopathic Islamic State, I hope each of them meets a Syrian bullet. Your ridiculous identity politics may have a different context in Bradford or Birmingham, but in Syria you are European colonists, invaders of the most arrogant kind.


the ISIS barbarians calling on like-minded fanatics to join them in colonising bilad ash-sham is very reminiscent of last century’s Zionist settlement of Palestine. How many psychopathic projects can one region take?

Religious or sectarian identity politics have been used very efficiently as a weapon of counter-revolution across the region. This is power’s magic wand – the equivalent of tribe, race or language in other parts. Originally as part of a nationalist (or nation-statist) urge to find pride in the pre-colonial past, so many Muslims have been taught that a proper Islamic state (a liberal or severe version, according to who’s talking) would bring them political, social and economic power and establish justice on earth. But this is not an accurate reading of the historical record. Islam was once a great civilisation; it was never a great state, not even under the so-called ‘rightly-guided’ caliphs. Meanwhile, I read that atheists are to be categorised as terrorists in Saudi Arabia, and I wondered if I had done my part to sufficiently distinguish between pride in a heritage, individual spirituality, and religion as a useful political ‘identity’. I wrote this:

I am a ‘spiritual’ agnostic, not an atheist, but I’m sure the Arab world needs a lot more atheism. Like many others, I have been guilty in the past of talking far too much about Islam and its tediously glorious past – I love Shakespeare too, but we don’t feel the need to bring King Lear into contemporary political discussions. Islamic states have always been tyrannies. Our Islamic glories (which were cultural, not political) lie centuries in the past, and are irretrievable. Even in the great classical period, dissenting and non-conformist voices were usually silenced. Neither medieval religion nor shallow identity politics can provide any practical solutions to our enormous problems today. ‘Islam’ is an enormous distraction, and we should say so openly and repeatedly. Worse than that, its first function in the world – like any organised religion – is to serve power, to divide so power can continue to rule. (this doesn’t mean I like the state-allied muslim secularists. they have helped create the islamist delusion by their arrogance, class prejudice and authoritarianism).

Written by Robin Yassin-Kassab

August 21, 2014 at 10:06 am

Posted in Iraq, Islamism, Syria, USA

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